Paula McMahon prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the mass public vaccination program gets underway, at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 8. The Canadian federal government announced Dec. 7 that 249,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada before the end of the year, but none will be going to the territories. (Jeff J Mitchell/AP)

Paula McMahon prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the mass public vaccination program gets underway, at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 8. The Canadian federal government announced Dec. 7 that 249,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada before the end of the year, but none will be going to the territories. (Jeff J Mitchell/AP)

Early round of December vaccines won’t reach the territory

Chief doctor says Pfizer vaccine not well-suited to small population of the North

The federal government announced Dec. 7 that 249,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada before the end of the year, but none will be going to the territories.

“We’ve worked very closely with the premiers in the northern territories as well as Indigenous leaders across the country. We know that they are a priority population and therefore will be part of those initial three million doses we’re expecting in the beginning of 2021,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, responding to reporters’ questions after a Monday morning press conference.

The Pfizer vaccine is considered more logistically difficult to distribute in the North because it requires storage at -80 C.

“I would simply add that the territories have indicated a preference to other vaccine candidates because of the complexity associated with distributing the Pfizer vaccine. We’re paying attention to the priorities and making those vaccines available as rapidly as possible once they’re approved,” said Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the logistical planning of the vaccine distribution.

“I think we need to be very clear, every Canadian who wants access to a vaccine is going to be receiving a vaccine,” added Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand during the presser.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said the Yukon has the ability to store and distribute the Pfizer vaccine, but indicated to the federal government that the Moderna vaccine is preferable because it only requires cold storage at -20 C.

On Dec. 8 Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley said because the vaccine needs to be stored in the cold, it requires around 975 people to be vaccinated in a short time period.

“The Pfizer vaccine really is designed for large populations. It’s not just a question of the freezers, it’s all of the mechanisms that are involved in storage and transport,” he said. “And we don’t want to waste any dosage.”

Bypassing the North, the federal government has identified 14 distribution sites for urban areas and will have one in each province and two in the four largest provinces. The vaccines will be distributed to the provinces on a per-capita basis.

In the legislature on Dec. 7, opposition parties questioned the government’s approach and again placed pressure on the premier to release a public version of the current vaccination plan for the territories.

“We learned this week that the Yukon and other territories have requested that Pfizer not be employed in the Yukon. So that’s news (to us),” said Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon.

“Now we’ve heard that there is some planning underway, but it’s fluid. And we don’t know what it looks like,” Dixon said.

Silver reiterated that the territory is capable of distributing either vaccine and will be prepared for what they receive in the new year. He said a vaccination plan will be available soon, but it won’t be released until details are confirmed.

“Preparations in the territory are already underway and this includes identifying storage space, the number of required doses, staffing requirements, and operational plans for distribution in Whitehorse and the rural communities as well,” he said.

NDP leader Kate White also questioned the still-unknown vaccine plan, asking how the government is preparing to deal with the numbers of people and how they plan to combat misinformation about the safety of vaccines.

She agreed with Silver that the early vaccine rollout is good news for Canadians, but she said the Yukon government should be more transparent to help Yukoners know what to expect.

“My assumption is that the Pfizer vaccine isn’t ideal for us,” she said. “Who am I to challenge that? But if we had a clear understanding, and communications coming from the government about what to expect, I think that would solve a lot of the kind of political posturing that we see in the legislature,” she said.

The Premiers of NWT and Nunavut have both said they are waiting on the Moderna vaccine. The Canadian government’s expected three million vaccines in 2021 are anticipated to include both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read